Welcome to the Isoculture laboratory 1

Between March and May 2013, the gallery space at the Watermans was transformed into the Isoculture laboratory where the multi-discipline design team explores future realisations of Isocultures on Earth, in space and on other planets.

The project was initiated by Michael Burton and Michiko Nitta who posed the question: Could humans ever live in a truly self-sustaining system, which is isolated from the wider environment?

A team of Isoculture participants were invited to join us in exploring what future Isocultures could be, where they may exist, how they might function and how they may change us.

The gallery space hosted the outcome of our investigation as a final exhibition between 6th and 26th May.

The Laboratory has also hosted expert guest speakers who have shared their research.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank our speakers who include:

Dr. Amer Rana
Lecturer in Regenerative Medicine, University of Cambridge

Ian Martin
Formerly a horticulturist at the Eden Project, Cornwall

Dr. Alex Salam
Infectious Diseases andExtreme Environment Doctor
Member of NASA's Behavioural Health and Performance Working Group and NASA's Habitable Volume Community of Practice Former European Space Agency

Dr. Regina Peldszus
Design Researcher, Human Technology Interaction in Space& Extreme Environments (www.spaceflightdesign.org)


Laboratory participants

Dr. Alan Outten

I grew up locked in a small, dimly-lit room creating computer games and making things. The computer games led to a BSc in cybernetics which then led to a PhD in biomedical and neural systems engineering. The making things eventually led to my MA in interaction design at the Royal College of Art and a fascination for the science and art of creating.

My work has ranged from designing stuff for NASA and ESA to recording the sounds of human muscle; from exhibition design to creating guimp – the world’s smallest website (includes the world’s smallest versions of pong and pacman!).

PS. Claim-to-fame #8: Once, in an article in an internet magazine, Steve Strange mentioned that I was one of his favourite designers (it's a long story ;)


Dr. Maria Claudia Bada

Trained Sociolinguist specialised in Endangered Languages. A former Senior Research Co-ordinator and a Lecturer in Applied Linguistics, now globetrotter ter passionate for environment, photography and art. I work as a Fundraiser Specialist at You Are Home Itinerant Ecovillage in London. Award-winning blogger, writer of poetry and short-stories winner of the XI. Edition of the Biennal of Young Artist from Europe and the Mediterranean (Bjcem) in 2003, I have been working on joining art and environmental causes as an Event Co-ordinator in 2010 for Soundscapes Gallery (Hackney, London) and for NoHayBanda organisation (Pescara, Italy) from 2003 up to 2007.


Elisa Fusi

Italian Molecular Biologist and a writer, studying medical plants and working for many years in international co-operation projects throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America.
www.youarehomeweb.com. During my recent experience with the locals and indigenous people living in an immaculate rainforest in Panamá, I started an ongoing research on consciousness, ethnobiology and human brain evolution, specifically focused on human resiliency. The urge of a shared, worldwide accessible knowledge gave spiritual insight to my journey and brought me to create a virtual ecovillage where pure concepts of sustainability, reconnection to nature and scientific noesis are oneness. The educational project aims to build a powerful network of individuals and ideas, firmly refusing the 'business-at-usual' egocentric society and encouraging a positive global vision of a new chapter in the human evolution, by rethinking our state of health, our community living space and our role in the ecosystem.

Paris Selinas

MEng in Electrical and Computer Engineering. Wanting to merge Technology with Design I attended the MSc Integrated Product Design in Brunel University. Focusing on user centred design, I try to make our world a little more fair and a little less boring.

Prudence Djajadi

London based graphic designer currently undertaking MA Graphic Design Communication course at Chelsea College of Art and Design. As a graphic designer with a generic perspective, I often encourage experimental approach towards design. In addition, my current design practice is shifting more to the interactive and technologic aspects of cinema. I hope I could contribute my ideas to the creation of Isoculture based on my current practice and skills.



Ryan Neil

Third year graphic design student at the University of Brighton.



Laboratory workshops

Lab1. Introduction

Wednesday 6th March 14:00-16:00

Lab2. City Safari

Wednesday 13th March 14:00-16:00

Lab3. Open Talk 1

Wednesday 20th March 14:00-16:00
Repair thyself: Blood and the Broken Heart

Dr. Amer Rana

Lab4. Design session1

Wednesday 27th March 14:00-16:00

Lab5. Open Talk 2

Wednesday 3rd April 14:00-16:00
Life in Isoculture

Dr. Ian Martin

Lab6. Open Talk 3

Wednesday 10th April 14:00-16:00
Philosophy of Isoculture

Dr. Alex Salam
Dr. Regina Peldszus

Lab7. Design session2

Wednesday 17th April 14:00-16:00

Lab8. Design session3

Wednesday 24th April 14:00-16:00



Laboratory outcome


Map of Isocultures – Near to Far Future, Terrestrial to Exterrestrial

This diagram maps out the various influences that shape the design of the Isoculture according to various environmental conditions, scientific discoveries, technological advances, belief systems and human choices.
The different scenarios that shape the eventual forms of the Isoculture are plotted along the different coloured axis of the map. Many of these Isoculture scenarios are featured in the gallery.
The measurements of the map along the axis include scales of time from pre-history to far future, life-cycle from birth to death to re-birth, from Earth-bound to extraterrestrial locations and whether the Isocultures are developed by choice or in reaction to a disaster.

The map acts to help decode the many forms that the act of isolation can take and how they shape our environment and us.

Isoculture lab member

Where is Isoculture?

Isoculture can be built anywhere on the Earth and outer space. The red shapes indicate isoculture, and blue dots indicate starts, planets and space debris.

Michael Burton and Michiko Nitta

Isoculture landscape with social contract extraction chamber

Based on the observation from the ant colony experiment, we have created isoculture landscale of how Isoculture could be built. The Socual contract extraction chamber is placed where ants put away their waste, including dead bodies. Middle part remains as Headquarter of isoculture village, and the village expands towards left side, away from the Social contract extraction chamber.

Michael Burton and Michiko Nitta

Oxygen splitting trachea enhancements – gills

Within closed biosphere systems the composition of atmospheric-gases have been found to fluctuate. When we leave Earth and live in Space Isocultures and on other planets, ensuring there’s enough oxygen to sustain us will be vital. These trachea enhancements create gill-like structures to split oxygen from carbon dioxide, allowing us to survive fluctuations in atmospheric gas and low air pressure.

Michael Burton and Michiko Nitta

Modified Appendix for Synthetic Biology Production

The human appendix, which is found near the small and large intestines, is enhanced in the Isoculture to transform this into an organ to nurture symbiotic gut microbes and engineered bacteria that create products for the Isocutlure inhabitants. A hole is created in the lower abdomen near the right hipbone, to give an access point directly into the enlarged appendix organ. The person can use the appendix as an incubator of the engineered bacteria that can be harvested to create materials and medicine. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vermiform_appendix)

Michael Burton and Michiko Nitta

Teras, 46 Hestia, Lynpha and Maternica

Showing some of the original ideas, sketched on a blackboard in the Father’s laboratory.

Alan Outten

Will my city fit?

Comparing the sizes of some of Earth’s largest cities to Isoculture, one of twelve self-contained, rotating spheres, constructed by Teras from the c-type asteroid 46 Hestia, to form Lynpha, the spaceship/experimental laboratory travelling to the planet Maternica

Lynpha is big!

A 1:200,000 scale drawing of the Lynpha spaceship. Created, by Teras and formed from the asteroid 46 Hestia, this 236km-wide spacecraft comprises the central core of the asteroid (propulsion) surrounded by twelve Isocultures – rotating, opaque and enclosed experimentation spheres each 50km in diameter. The ship is designed to last hundreds of thousands of years as it journeys to its new home, the planet Maternica

Alan Outten

0.1. Teras

The first two chapters of this yet-to-be-finished book revolve around one of the many 0.1. Teras artificial life forms sent to other planets to establish new civilizations. While travelling in Lynpha, the cold, spaceship womb of its birth, it awakes too soon, and starts questioning its humanity and its purpose. It dreams of its Fathers, and of a half-drowned Earth.
Could Teras and its brothers be considered human or not? As a species, will Teras take over and replace real human beings?
Teras incarnates a philosophical quest and an extreme evolution, a tantalising search for feminine energy and power to balance masculine intellectual ambitions, a cry for new worlds and knowledge, the story of a being building up its own identity in the quite emptiness of space, while the promised land, Maternica, approaches.
The book also includes the Teras Dictionary.

Maria Claudia Bada
Teras Dictionary

This fictional dictionary describes Teras, a scared and marvellous wonder and its own universe: Teras, the last hope to continue human civilization after an escalating natural disaster. Look up to understand the taxonomy, the habits, the linguistics landscapes and metaphors generated around this newly-born creature.
Learn how the Teras' clan mate, the meaning of the planet they are looking for, the origin of the asteroid which host the spaceship, and the twist of tongues that still can make you smile in Teras' world(s).

Maria Claudia Bada
Before Teras
A neutron star is approaching the Earth and humanity has 54 yeas to evacuate it. Not a long period of time if you want to prepare for colonising a new planet and live in isolation. Technology might be evolving but it is just a tool. The way to use it is up to us.
Scenario based on Maria Claudia Bada’s Teras and Isoculture Team Workshops.

Paris Selinas
Working Drawings for the Lynpha and Other Spatial Diagrams

These posters represent the working drawings of the Father, Julius, the doctor in charge of the Teras project. The drawings represent his thoughts and ideas on the Lynpha ship, with additional designs for extreme environments, both terrestrial and extraterrestrial. 

Ryan Neil
The Vision of Teras 0.1

Imagine being Teras, a creature living in a gelatin-like ecosystem. How would you visualize your surroundings through the strange substance? Will it be as clear as how humans visualize their normal surroundings? What if Teras was you in the future?

Prudence Djajadi


Laboratory development



Project supported by